Be kind to yourself in these difficult times.

By Dr. Annika

These fires are very stressful for everyone. The fear of not surviving is a really visceral one. Even if you haven’t lost a loved one or property, or if you haven’t watched the news, you are still breathing in the smoke and have probably been down to the shops and noticed the subdued atmosphere. We all seem to just want to curl up under a rock and hide till it’s all over.

And that would actually be a very good thing to do. Remember that the only actual remedy for stress is rest. So allow yourself to feel tired, give yourself extra rest and sleep. It’s likely you won’t feel the exhaustion until after the fires have subsided and you are out of immediate danger.

Make sure you replenish your water. The air is very dry at the moment and being dehydrated just makes everything worse and stops your body from working optimally or even well.

Try not to overdo the quick fixes – alcohol/caffeine/sugar etc – because you are doing it on credit and will have to pay back that energy with interest down the track. If you need caffeine go for green tea, which isn’t quite so hard on your adrenals.

Allow yourself to feel the emotions – grief, sadness, anger, rage, loss, fear are all normal responses to the events. When you are in immediate danger, they get supressed because you have to concentrate on survival. That doesn’t mean that they aren’t in your beingness, however, and stiff upper lip will only lead to these emotions being trapped in the body and are likely to make you sick down the track. Let the tears flow- the tears of anger and joy and fear and grief all have a different chemical composition, so as far as I am concerned it’s the way the body can literally wash the emotions out of itself. Don’t harm yourself by trying to pretend you are superhuman.

Music! Sing your heart out, as if no-one is listening. It’s also a great way to express emotions. Music in general is wonderful, especially if you are the maker of it, such as playing an instrument or singing. But just listening to music that makes your heart happy will help too.

Movies – watch a funny film, or read a funny book, and allow yourself to laugh out loud as often as you can. Refill your tank so you can keep going.

Hug those you love. For at least 21 seconds, ideally longer. Allow yourself to really feel that warmth in your heart as you hold the ones you love.

Pat your pet.

Take deep breaths.

Walk in bare feet on grass or on the beach.

Remedies – there are lots of wonderful remedies that can help. A good generic one is rescue remedy (Bach flowers) or emergency essence (bush flower remedy). Herbs that are useful are ones like withania and rosehip. Take up drinking rosehip tea. Lavander is a lovely calming essential oil, and the citrus ones are uplifting (use good quality). We have found NAC really useful to help the body clear the smoke toxins out of the body.

Nourish your body – choose real food. That means the kind that doesn’t have GST on it. Your body easily gets depleted with this much intense stress going on, and each mouthful should ideally be a nutrient “bomb” so your body can replenish itself.

Do gentle exercise – like walking or swimming or dancing – something that you can sustain for hours without getting exhausted. This is the kind of exercise that switches on the “rest and digest” part of the nervous system and it’s really good to move to actually get the adrenaline shifted. Also keep in mind that it’s easier to get injured when you are stressed (for a variety of reasons), so be mindful if/when you move heavy objects etc.

Have some body work. I haven’t encountered an adult recently that doesn’t have a tight neck and even possibly headaches. This is because of the posture we hold when we are stressed. Whatever works for you – chiropractic, massage, acupuncture, bowen, reiki …..

Meditate. It’s not hard, and there are gazillions of guided meditations out there if you, like me, have the kind of mind that likes to be kept busy.

Do something kind for someone else, and really feel the gratitude when someone else does something kind for you.

Don’t sweat the small stuff. And for the big stuff, break it down into small, manageable bits. Ask for help if you need to, and allow others to help you. It makes them feel good, so it’s a total win/win!

And mostly be kind to yourself. This is a tough time, and if you have sustained a heavy loss, it can take up to two years to process fully. So don’t judge or compare yourself. It is what it is, and you are at where you are at. Beating yourself up as well isn’t going to make anything better.

…. In re-reading this, it’s actually excellent advice for life in general. I think it’s an invitation to make today the beginning of the rest of our lives and give it all meaning by increasing the compassion and love and gratitude in our hearts and therefore in the world.


“with all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world” (from Desiderata)